Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) – A seminar on "Laity and Mission", organized by the International Secretariat of the Pontifical Missionary Union (PMU) and the International Centre for Missionary Animation (CIAM), with the collaboration of National Directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Spain, Colombia, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay is currently being held at CIAM in Rome. 18 conference participants, from Spain and from Latin American countries mentioned above are attending the seminar.
On the first day of the seminar, Monday, February 13, Fr. Fabrizio Meroni, Secretary General of the PMU and Director of CIAM, opened the seminar with a speech characterized by "provocations" and open questions in order to stimulate discussion among those present. Then Guzmán Carriquiry, Vice President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, developed an extensive and in-depth reflection on the theme of the seminar, starting from the letter sent by Pope Francis to Cardinal President of such commission last March 19, 2016. In that letter, the Pope recalls substantial connotative traits of the identity and of the mission of the "holy faithful members of God". In the afternoon, Spanish theologian, Fr. Eloy Ebbene offered a reflection on the theological and ecclesial framework to be developed in the course of the entire seminar. Each speech was followed by an interesting exchange of opinions and contributions. The first working day ended with the Eucharistic celebration.
On Tuesday, February 14th, the second day began with the Eucharistic celebration presided by Mgr. Eugenio Scarpellini, Bishop of the diocese of Alto (Bolivia) and National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies of that Latin American country. Bishop Scarpellini, in the light of the day's liturgy, touched some of the themes which the continental work of reflection and preparation for the American Mission Congress could focus on, to be held in July 2018 in Bolivia.
Before starting the work scheduled on the second day of the seminar, participants received a welcome visit of Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; the Cardinal showed a keen interest in the central theme of the seminar, and after thanking the commitment and interest of all those involved, offered some important considerations. The Prefect of the Congregation of Propaganda Fide noted that, especially after the II Vatican Council, the concept of mission should be understood in a clear dynamic key, setting aside the territorial conception of mission. The Cardinal warned that the missionary fruitfulness can only be perceived by understanding the intrinsic relationship that exists between the mission-church-secular concepts.
Cardinal Filoni acknowledged that the figure of the lay missionary is new, because, for a long time mission appeared as an exclusive task of the consecrated and religious. And then he wondered: Who is the missionary? And he answered: the missionary is the baptized; mission is for everyone, both in the sense of before and of the "new" evangelization. At the same time, the Cardinal stressed the need to keep in mind the Christian anthropological dimension, in which men and women as different and complementary beings have a real opportunity and wealth for the mission of evangelization, because the sensitivity and the characteristics of masculinity and femininity constitute true experiences of mission. The Cardinal also encouraged to consider the missionary role of children and young people, noting that in each of these stages of life, every Christian has skills and opportunities to develop its mission.
After referring to his direct knowledge of missionary experiences in mission territories in America, the Cardinal Prefect of the missionary Congregation concluded his visit with two statements in the spirit of the Magisterium of Pope Francis: "we must recognize that in the periphery of life there the missionary heart of the Church, and do not forget that when people feel loved, they open their hearts to the Gospel".
The seminar is taking place at CIAM and will end on Saturday, February 18.
Fr. Leonardo Rodriguez, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies of Uruguay. (Agenzia Fides, 15/02/2017)